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Sounds like a good plan to me, a bit like doing the Chelsea chop on only a few stems of a plant

Can anyone tell me why when I cut back my black lace elderberry the branches from where I trimmed withered and died?  Is it too late now at the end of May in Chicago to trim it back the dead branches?  I'm afraid of loosing the whole bush.


Hi Ninio

You'll need to tell us a bit more about your elderberry bush - is it in sun or shade?  Does it get much water or is the soil naturally dry?  What are the garden temperatures? When did you cut it back and how far?

Most of us are UK based so you'll have to help us with added information if we're to advise you

Hi I just joineed 'cos I have some questions on the black lace monster which lurks on the corner of my lawn. Had no idea would grow so huge. I planted it around 4/5 years ago I think an just kinda felt my way with the pruning and it always looks lush. Used to grow very wide and not overly tall but last year, between August and November I was away and a "mate" who was staying here cut it back somewhat and now it's a glorious bushy 6ft tall by 5 ft wide with lots of extra leggy lengths and way too big for where it is. It's blocking the path and is mahoosive and I love it but don't know what to do now. Can it be moved  (not even sure to where though)? How should I cut it back an when to make it more dumpy if it has to stay there. Am confused...I often cock up with planting!!! Please can anyone help :)

Last edited: 20 June 2016 15:23:21

Dear GnomesweetGnome,

Sambucus Black Lace is a spectacular tree/shrub that can grow up to 20ft high, apparently.   It can be kept in check by hard pruning every year.   They say that you can cut it down to the ground and it will throw out new foliage each year, if you repeat that procedure, though I, personally, would be reluctant to risk it.  I wouldn't want to gamble on losing mine.

I've had shrubs die on me over the winter for no logical reason - that happened to my beloved Cotinus Coggyria Royal Purple this year - it just died and produced no new growth at all after I gave it its regular pruning in March.

It depends on how brave you are, really.   Sambucus is a hardy tree, so it SHOULD be okay to prune it hard back to the shape and size YOU want it to be.



My Black Lace is sick.  I have let it grow tall but with a raised canopy so its legs are bare and all the action was up top casting dappled shade below.

Very few shoots this year and feeble at that and bark splitting so I'm going to cut it right down to about 3'/90cms and see what happens. 

Gnome - If yours is growing too wide just cut out the branches that are growing in directions you don't want.  If you do decide to move it wait till autumn when it will be dormant and can spend the winter regrowing and developing new roots.


My (3 yr old) plant was very leggy last year so I cut it down to 2" (yes inches!) above the ground in spring - it still made well over 2m growth last season.

This year I cut to about 2' and it is now quite a nice size and shape. I think these are quite hard to kill off and will withstand any amount of hard cutting back.

I believe that as a general rule cutting back deciduous trees during the dormant season (or just before regrowth begins) results in a hormonal response which prompts vigorous regrowth.

Pruning and shaping in the summer is more difficult because of the leaves (less easy to see the skeleton of the tree) but does not induce the same hormonal response.

I don't know if this rule applies to elders - but I would be tempted to reduce the size of the tree now (or after flowering) and see what happens.

Gee thanks folks. Am sitting out here staring at it's gorgeous immenseness knowing it just has to have a little snippy snip now or I won't even see my climbing red rose and margarita display against the back fence and my hammock will be swamped and path disappear. Gonna put some shoots in the ground and hope they root, and see if some blooms fancy a spot in my living room. So worried about losing next year's blooms though, or upsetting the beauty. That end of garden looked so sweet when it was about 2 foot tall!!! It is literally planted in the corner of my lawn....that probably wasn't the smartest place I guess. Appreciate all your help though 🌸

Last edited: 20 June 2016 18:45:21


Next year's blooms will be fine.   Cut back what you need to use the path and see your rose and it will simply produce new shoots on other stems which will flower next year.

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